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Openly Gay Rapper Fly Young Red Takes On Hip-Hop

Founded on a hyper-masculine culture of predominantly straight black males, hip-hop is probably the most homophobic among the many different musical art forms. “Gay” and “hip-hop” are simply two words that don’t co-exist in the same sentence. Until now.

While there have been straight rappers in support of gays (Macklemore, Kanye West), and other openly gay rappers who have burst onto the scene (vogue rapper Le1f, drag queen rapper Mykki Blanco, white ballet-trained rapper, JBDubs) no one has made a more controversial splash on the Internet than Fly Young Red.

The 22-year old New Orleans native recently gained notoriety with his video release of the provocative “Throw That Boy P***y”. The video went viral with over 200 thousand views and launched Fly Young Red into the hip-hop stratosphere.

The video uses many of the same tropes of traditional misogynistic hip-hop videos – big booty dancers in skimpy panties twerkin’ their bums at the camera – except these are male booties twerkin’. Yup. That happened. The usual degradation goes down in the lyrics, “Let me see you clap that a** like a b**ch,” and Red’s swagga is definitely in check – snapback cocked to the side, thank you very much.

As for the young’n’s rap skills – they’re mild to basic. Sometimes the rapper skips rhymes all together. While the rhymes are weak, he delivers the nastiest lines with such an infectious grin, that you just can’t help but watch in total awe. He’s every stereotype of a young rapper, with the one exception that he’s gay. This means the sheer audacity of the hook, “Throw That Boy P***y” repeated like a true southern rap jam is really the main draw. Speaking of the South, Red’s rapping skills can be styled as southern hip-hop, dirty rap, and the newly coined “homo hop”.

When Fly Young Red realized there was a lack of homosexual identity represented in hip-hop, he became more mainstream about his sexual identity. The Huffington Post asked him why he had made the video in the first place, and his answer was simple: “When I go to gay clubs and I look around, I see a lot of gay guys dancing to songs that are made by straight rappers talking about females… I think females are beautiful, but I don’t find them sexually attractive. I like gay guys, so I made a song for gay guys to enjoy and dance to.”

The notoriety and popularity of the video probably surprised Fly Young Red as much as it has others in the hip-hop community:

“I never wanted this song on the radio at all — I’m not trying to push a gay agenda on the African American race or turn young black youth gay. This music is not for either of them. All I wanted to do was make a song for the gay people that like hip-hop to dance to. That’s it.”

Fly Young Red had a rather interesting upbringing that lies in sharp contrast to his public identity. Raised in a religious Baptist family he was an active Christian in his teens. (Homosexuality and Christianity often don’t mix either.) Forced to move from Louisiana to Texas due to Hurricane Katrina, Red began performing in black gay clubs in the Houston and Atlanta areas. His big break came when he negotiated a deal with Level Eight Studios to produce the music video to “Throw That Boy P***y”. The video released this spring, went viral and led to him being offered a record deal. Prior to success, Red had shied away from the record deal offered to a rap group he had formed, back when he was pretending to be straight. As he told BET: “I was living a lie. Why would I wait until someone outed me, have a chance of losing my rap career and messing up the reputation of these people who had nothing to do with what I was going through? So I quit… As time passed and I got more comfortable with my sexuality, I realized that the only thing that was in my way was me.”

All that said, here’s the thing about homosexuality in the hip-hop culture: since hip-hop is founded on predominately African-American culture, the beliefs and traditions in hip-hop stem from a culture rooted in a fierce protectiveness of heterosexuality. Being gay and black is hard enough; being gay, black and a rapper is nearly impossible. But apparently not for Fly Young Red.


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About the Author

on MUSIC IS MY OXYGEN WEEKLY.

Mic check 1,2,1,2. Not the words you expect to bust out of Orange County, California, but that's where Deborah Jane found her funk. Daughter of Guyanese immigrants, Deborah grew up in an all-white suburb where she was one of the only black kids in her school. (Fun fact: She didn't make her first black friend until attending Stanford University). Hip-hop gave her a voice and helped her discover her roots. Now she is an emcee and writer who both spits raps and writes editorials, TV shows and films - especially hip-hop musicals!

At Stanford, she wrote and produced an award-winning hip-hop musical, Strange Fruit: The Hip-Hopera (www.strangefruithiphopera.com) - now in development as a feature film. Deborah also launched her hip-hip theatre webseries, The HOTT (www.youtube.com/TheHOTTtv), published in Urban Cusp Magazine. Currently, she is penning her first hip-hop album, Do You Love Me Deborah Jane? And do you? She truly hopes you all love her.

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